Life can be stressful for busy high-school students whose futures depend on their ability to do well in many aspects of school, such as academics, clubs, and sports. The incentive to do well inhibits students from taking risks, and trying unconventional approaches in assignments. The pressure to get good grades compels many students to seek alternatives. In effect, instead of developing original thinking shaped by personal experiences and knowledge, many students take shortcuts by lifting ideas from other sources, with the hopes of achieving high grades. As a result, many students lack the skills to develop as critical thinkers.
The lack of originality in the work of students could be due to laziness, or the pressure to fulfill many other tasks. Lack of planning exacerbates the willingness to reach informed solutions. Only a fraction of graduating high school seniors (6 percent of 12th graders) can make informed, critical judgments about written texts (Source 1). This statistic shows that our future appears dismal because students are unable to make informed decisions. These students will one day operate the government, judiciary, public, and private sectors. Therefore, it is crucial for them to have the skills to make informed decisions for the betterment of society. Students should form opinions based on facts. However, when the stakes are high to get good grades, why would students feel obliged to waste hours effectively planning arguments and evidence for assignments, when they can simply google the answers? Many students focus on quickly finishing tasks, and meeting all its requirements, rather than internalizing the assignment, and developing a stance through reasoning, and rational ideas. Critical thinking provides the possibility to assent rigorous standards of excellence. It entails effective communication and problem solving abilities, and a commitment to overcome native biases rooted in self, or in society (Source 2). Critical thinking can help diminish prejudices, discrimination, and stereotypes that exists in our society. It can also lower people’s emotional responses, and preconceived ideas, as they will be attuned to think before talking or acting.
Without critical thinking, students have more of a “just do it” attitude, which requires minimal thinking and intellectual commitment. Critical thinking is the basis of intellectual integrity. It can develop over a period of time with practice. For example, in my history class this year, students are assigned either a document based reading, or long essay to write each quarter. In class, we spend several days critically understanding the documents, the historical context, and the significance. After going through this step by step process several times as a class, students should be able to recognize different arguments, point of views, and effectively synthesize documents on their own. They should be able to construct their own arguments without bias, and pick out key pieces of evidence, rather than being explicitly informed on what to write for every assignment. This inhibits students from thinking freely, as they become bound to the thinking of others. As a result, there is a flaw to intellectual integrity. Students end up becoming manipulated by the thoughts of others, which they do nothing but elaborate on (Source 3). Influenced by arguments already presented, students may not find it necessary to factually develop their own thoughts and ideas. Although critical thinking requires more time and effort, it enhances student’s needs to be true to their own thinking.
Critical thinking is a lifelong endeavor. It generates sets of skills and beliefs based on intellectual commitments which guide our behavior. People who critically think consistently attempt to live rationally, reasonably, and empathically. Therefore, it is important as a student to commit to lifelong practices of self improvement through critical thinking. Critical thinking is important for students to process relevant information, and effectively reach a conclusion or solution. As Warren Buffet succinctly said, “ A public opinion poll is no substitute for thought” (Source 4). To possess this ability, one has to be thorough in their search for information, and open minded in interpreting evidence. Nurturing critical thinking in students will help create a progressive and open minded society, which reduces the state of ignorance that is influenced by prejudice.